Reviewed: January 5, 2006
Released: November 15, 2005
Thereís this TV show, maybe youíve heard of it. Itís called Law & Order. It has spawned three spin-off series, Law & Order: Criminal Intent being one of the most recent. Criminal Intent stars Vincent D'Onofrio, perhaps better known as an ďEdgar SuitĒ. I havenít watched the show, but the basic premise is that DíOnofrioís character is really good at breaking people down during interrogations. I can only assume that this game works similar, but Iíll get into why assumptions are necessary later.
Where to beginÖ oh yes, an adventure game? A Law & Order adventure game? Are you guys crazy? I mean really, I suppose it makes sense on some level, in that Criminal Intent is a show that seems to be driven more on the interaction of DíOnofrioís character with the suspects than on actual criminal legal work (the detective/prosecution stuff you usually see in regular Law & Order). However, in this game you are wandering around trying to collect enough information in order to get a suspect, which you can then interrogate.
What is bothersome is that the game is less about that collection of evidence and more about solving puzzles that you typically find in adventure games in order to collect that evidence. For example, in one of the cases you go into a recent murder victimís apartment looking for clues as to who might have killed her. In a nightstand drawer you find a puzzle box that you open by sliding pieces around in order to form a picture (the actual picture you are trying to make is hanging on a wall nearby, and is a very nice representation of a Monet).
You solve the puzzle and get some mildly useful documents. What is bothersome is that going back and forth between the puzzle and the picture you need for reference is annoyingly complex, and really, why am I doing that? It seems out of place in the game, though that is perhaps more a result of what I was expecting when I first installed the game.
What is worse is that the next puzzle I had to solve was completely broken. It is possible that a patch was released shortly after the game hit the shelves to fix this problem, but it is COMPLETELY unacceptable that a game is released that does not work. I donít care that maybe some PCís may not be compatible with the game and certain conflicts occur, thatís one thing. If the game ďworksĒ but one of the puzzles isnít responding properly so that a player is left with the option of trial and error to solve it (in this case I think it would take something like 720 different combinations to cycle through to find the answer, attempted in sets of three before you have to reset the puzzle) that is just shoddy development.
As far as the rest of the game goes, itís passable. You collect evidence and send it to various analysis departments, and then correlate it all together on a computer which then spits out a criminal profile. Basically you interview witnesses using happy, concerned, deceptive, or aggressive faces to try to get information out of them and solve cheesy puzzles in order to collect documentary evidence. Itís functional, but not very engaging.
Since this is a game based on a TV show that relies on name recognition to a certain extent you would expect that if nothing else Mr. DíOnofrio would be recognizable and at least passably well rendered, which is exactly what you get. Also, though most of the other characters are reasonably human looking, the only graphics worth wasting text on are the textures in some of the close up shots. As mentioned above, the paintings that are included in the game are digitized very nicely.
The bad news is that the animations are terrible, not only do you look really stiff walking around, but there were several occasions when I was walking around that the character had a split second where he threw his arms out horizontally like someone was measuring his wing-span and then went back to standing normally, but didnít move otherwise. This just looks like a game that was rushed out the door to cash in on the tie-in.
Again, since the tie-in revolves heavily around DíOnofrio all of his characterís lines are recorded by him, so you have decent acting there. Everyone else is forgettable to annoying, especially since you get called, often, to remind you that the evidence you referred to the coroner/researcher/lab, has been analyzed and could you please come take a look at it.
Sound otherwise is not really present. There isnít much musical background, and when it is there itís something reminiscent of the showís theme song, at least I would guess. Donít ask too much from the sound effects. Your phone is annoying, and otherwise itís just a bunch of stock typewriters, fax machines, computers, and beeping.
This score should really be a zero. Even if there is a patch allowing the various bugs to be fixed the fact that the game was released in such a state is enough for me to recommend that it dies a proper death on the game store shelf. The market is already cluttered with enough rush job franchise tie-ins, and with the game industry getting more and more in bed with the film industry I can only assume that trend will continue, but thatís no reason to buy the crap that is put out, especially when it is released without being completed.
If you really like the show, and can deal with plenty of bugs and broken gameplay you may find Law & Order: Criminal Intent enjoyable. I doubt it, but anything is possible.